A week in tech, June 18-24

A roundup of the latest technology news.

Victor Co, which will form a holding company with Kenwood Corp in October, plans to increase its video-camera shipments by 10% this fiscal year. Victor, the maker of JVC-brand electronics, is targeting shipments of 3.55 million video cameras in the year ending March 2009, up from 3.2 million in the previous 12 months. Victor and Kenwood will form a holding company on October 1 to focus on car and audio electronics.

SonyÆs chairman Howard Stringer said the company's top priority is to restore profitability at the its television and gaming divisions. Stringer, 66, made the comment at Sony's annual shareholder meeting in Tokyo. The company is scheduled to announce its next mid-term business plan on June 26. Sony said when it reported earnings in mid-May that profits at the electronics division, which makes Bravia TVs and Cyber-shot cameras, will fall this year as the stronger yen erodes the value of its exports. Tokyo-based Sony forecast net income will drop 22% to Ñ290 billion ($2.69 billion) in the year that started April 1, matching the median estimate of five analysts in a Bloomberg survey.

Sony also projects it will sell 10 million PlayStation 3 machines and 9 million PlayStation 2s this year. That means the company may lose its ranking as the world's largest maker of home video-game consoles because Kyoto-based Nintendo has projected it will sell 25 million Wii players this year. Meanwhile, a motion by some shareholders for full disclosure of every board member's salary and retirement package was defeated. Sony only publishes managers' combined salary and retirement payments without giving a breakdown.

Data storage company SanDisk has collaborated with Toshiba to develop and manufacture rewriteable 3D memory chips. Both companies will contribute to and cross-license the technology related to 3D chips. SanDisk will also receive certain payments from Toshiba for licensing its intellectual property. SanDisk and Toshiba have collaborated in NAND flash for many years, and are currently shipping their 43nm NAND devices. However, they have decided to cease production at their FlashVision joint venture in Japan, which manages part of the NAND flash-memory fabrication on 200-mm wafer lines.

More Japanese firms are seeking to join the growing market for electronic books packaged for delivery to cell phones. The overall market for e-books grew some 1.7-fold to roughly Ñ30 billion ($277.8 million) in fiscal 2007. Content for cell phones accounted for more than 70% of that total. Helping to fuel the market was the introduction of wireless service plans with cheap, fixed fees for packet communications. Younger consumers are driving the demand and companies that provide content are developing more products, like youth-oriented manga. Game software company Koei is putting together a collection of light novels or novels with anime illustrations.

Huawei Technologies is scheduled to launch an Internet-capable H11HW mobile phone in the middle of June in Japan, marking its debut in the Japanese market. Being able to support a data transfer speed of 3.6 megabit per second, the new mobile phone will be sold by Tokyo-based Japanese carrier Emobile. In addition to features like blue tooth, Web browser, music player and camera, the mobile phone will give users access to videophone services launched by Emobile.

Renesas Technology Corp, a joint venture between Hitachi and Mitsubishi Electric, has developed a way to vastly reduce the sludge that remains after wastewater has been treated at semiconductor plants. The semiconductor industry uses a cocktail of toxic chemicals in the chip-making process and some ends up in the industrial wastewater. Chipmakers have made significant progress treating the wastewater, but the bacteria they use in the treatment tanks tend to die and accumulate as sludge. With the technique developed by Renesas, micro bubbles are jetted into the tank, providing the bacteria with ample oxygen and keeping them alive. Micro bubbles last long enough to reach bacteria even deep inside the tank.

NTT DoCoMo has agreed to take a 30% stake in TM International (Bangladesh) through the purchase of roughly Ñ37 billion ($342 million) worth of shares of the third-largest cellular service provider in Bangladesh. TMIB, a joint venture between Telekom Malaysia and Bangladeshi conglomerate A.K. Khan & Co, operates cell phone service under the Aktel brand. With about 7.4 million subscriptions, TMIB has a 19% share of Bangladesh's cell phone market, which has been growing slightly faster than 60% a year. The nation of 150 million people had 38.3 million cellular service contracts as of March 31, 2008. DoCoMo will purchase all of A.K. Khan group's TMIB shareholdings by the end of this year.


SK Telecom is interested in buying a stake in China Telecom Corporation, according to SK TelecomÆs president, So Jin Woo. SK Telecom would like to team up with China Telecom if conditions are ripe. The company will take every chance of expanding its business. In fact, China TelecomÆs chairman, Wang Xiaochu, revealed the company's plan to lure a strategic investor soon after China Telecom announced details of its proposal to acquire the CDMA network from China Unicom.

Prosecutors have arrested the heads of five top Internet service providers on allegations of facilitating illegal distribution of copyrighted movies. The five companies claim the probe is politically-motivated attempt to thwart anti-government protests. The arrested include Moon Yong-shik, head of online service provider Nowcom, and four other heads of major Internet service operators for allegedly instigating the violation of online copyright laws. Moon and the other suspects allegedly gave 10% of the charges they received from downloaders to their top customers.

Sohu.com announced that it has got Internet broadcasting rights for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games under a cooperative agreement with China Central Television (CCTV), the official broadcaster of the Olympics. Sohu is the first Chinese Internet portal to gain such broadcasting rights. It will broadcast the opening ceremony and all games of the Olympics in the form of live broadcasts and video on demand. During the course of the Olympics, it will broadcast 3,800 hours of video programs with the aid of CCTV.com.

On a less upbeat note, Sohu.com said online advertising revenue growth may slow in 2009 to half this year's pace as sales ease after the Olympic Games, which start in August. Sales of online display ads are expected to increase by 20% to 30% in 2009, compared with a projected growth rate of more than 40% this year. SohuÆs share price has more than tripled in the past year as the company's sponsorship of the Beijing Olympics has attracted higher advertising spending from customers including Samsung Electronics and Adidas. The Beijing-based companyÆs ôTian Long Ba Buö online game has also helped bolster earnings.

Registrations for Internet addresses ending in China's ".cn" have surpassed those for the global ".net", showing the continued rapid rise in Internet usage in the communist nation. A study by VeriSign, which runs the ".net" databases and other core directories for helping computers find websites and route email, found that ".cn" overtook ".net" sometime in the first quarter of 2008. VeriSign did not provide registration breakdowns but said ".cn" registrations grew 23% from the previous quarter and were triple those in the same period in 2007. The organisation that runs Germany's ".de" domain pegged ".cn" registrations at 11.8 million and ".net" at 11.6 million as of May. The findings came as China reported that the number of Internet users in the country has soared to 221 million, which by some measures means it is now tied with the US in terms of having the largest online population in the world.

Mobile-phone sales in China grew the slowest pace in four years as consumers donated to relief efforts for the Sichuan earthquake. Sales gained 8.7% in May from a year earlier, the slowest rate since 2004 and less than half the 18.4% increase recorded for the first four months of this year. The impact of the Sichuan earthquake may continue to hurt sales into July and demand may not recover until September, after the Beijing Olympics.

Singapore Telecommunications is in talks with operators in China about investing in the world's biggest telecoms market, which is being overhauled and opened to foreign investors. The ongoing restructuring opens the door to foreign investors who have been restricted to taking small stakes, such as Vodafone's 3.3% investment in China Mobile. China has about 575 million mobile subscribers, and adds some 4 million new users every month. Mobile penetration stands at slightly above 40%. SingTel is considering investing in fixed-line operator China Telecom, although there have been no formal talks.

Telefonica has announced plans to acquire a 10% stake in wireless operator China Unicom. The Spanish telecom operator presently owns a 7.2% stake in fixed-line operator China Netcom, which will be diluted to about 3% once China Unicom acquires China Netcom for $24 billion this year. Fixed-line operator China Telecom will acquire Unicom's mobile-phone assets based on CDMA technology for more than US$15 billion. Last month, China announced a telecom restructuring plan which will result in three industry groups based around China Mobile, China Telecom and China Netcom.

Huawei Technologies expects its contract sales in Asia Pacific, excluding China, to hit $3.9 billion this year as regional operators upgrade their networks. Shenzhen-based Huawei, which competes with cross-town rival ZTE Corp, said contract sales in the region rose to $2.5 billion in 2007, versus $2 billion the previous year. In addition, Huawei is looking for a buyer for its growing terminal business. Carriers AT&T and Vodafone and private equity firms including Blackstone, TPG and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts have been reported as possible buyers of a 50% stake in the handset business. Meddy Lu, director of HuaweiÆs terminal division, said the company had appointed Morgan Stanley to handle a possible sale of the group. The handset business is in good health and accounts for about 10% of HuaweiÆs total revenues. Huawei shipped 30 million handsets and terminal cards up to May 2008, generating revenues of $1.8 billion. Last year the Chinese vendor sold 40 million handsets and modem cards resulting in revenues of $2.6 billion.

Alcatel-LucentÆs Chinese subsidiary Alcatel Shanghai Bell has signed a cooperation framework agreement for 2008 with China Mobile for mobile communications equipment and services with a contractual value of $1 billion.

Datang Mobile Communications Equipment Co has put its 32.11% stake in Beijing T3G Technology up for sale for Rmb122 million ($17.7 million) on the China Beijing Equity Exchange. With a registered capital of $42 million, T3G Technology mainly develops and manufactures multi-mode chip sets and associated software, however the company has been incurring huge losses for some time now. Apart from Datang Mobile Communications Equipment, the company's shareholders include NXP Semiconductors with a 42.7% stake, Samsung Electronics with 16.9% and Motorola with 8.3%.

China Telecom Group, the parent of Hong Kong-listed China Telecom, is seeking to offload 30% of its wholly-owned hotel subsidiary as it sets about acquiring a mobile network from China Unicom Group for Rmb66.2 billion (US$10 billion). The mainland's largest fixed-line operator is looking to sell a 30% percent stake in Tong Mao Hotel Holdings at an asking price of Rmb731 million. Tong Mao is involved in hotel and property management and has net assets of Rmb1.843 billion. As of last year it operated 11 hotels in seven provinces. Six of those - in Shanghai, Nanjing, Yangzhou, Jiejiang, Hefei and Guangxi û have four stars and three have three stars and have in Jiejiang and Shaanxi.

China UnicomÆs GSM mobile phone users increased by 1.1 million in May, bringing the total to 126.5 million users. It also added 55,000 new CDMA users for a total of 43.15 million users. The company estimates that its GSM users will increase by 6.0 million in 2008 and its CDMA users by 1.226 million.

Media, entertainment and gaming
The9 Limited, the licensed operator of the World of Warcraft (WoW) online game in mainland China, will issue and promote WoW-themed co-branded credit cards in partnership with China Merchants Bank. The9 said it will cooperate on brand and marketing with CMB, and Blizzard Entertainment, the developer of the massive multiplayer online roll-playing game, to attract more players on the strength of their own brand reach.

Hurray! Holding announced that its president, chief operating officer, and acting chief financial officer Sean Wang has resigned from his positions effective June 20. Xiaoqing Guo, currently vice president and financial controller of the company, will assume the role of acting CFO.

China may be about to see the opening of its first official Apple Store as the firm prepares to launch the iPhone in the country. Apple currently distributes its products in China through a network of several hundred licensed dealers. Some of the products, such as the original iPhone, are widely available as unofficial grey market imports. An Apple dealer in Beijing told local news service Sina that Apple plans to open a 1,000sqm store over three floors in a central Beijing shopping centre. While the dealer did not provide an opening date, other businesses in the new building are expected to open during July and August.


Taiwan's Ministry of Finance decided to withdraw a planned NT$52.8 billion ($1.74 billion) sale of Chunghwa Telecom shares after some lawmakers voiced opposition to the share disposal. Instead, it will sell bonds to help raise part of the funds for a program aimed at boosting the economy. The government was planning to reduce its stake in Taiwan's largest phone services provider by revenue to as low as 30% from 35.65%, in part to help fund a NT$120 billion ($4 billion) government spending program that will help support domestic demand at a time of rising prices.

Promos Technologies is offering 640 million new common shares at NT$7.96 ($0.3) each to South Korea's Hynix Semiconductor, which could increase the stake held by Hynix to around 9.55%. The actual size of the stake has yet to take into account other fund raisings. Among ProMOS' fund raising plans is an up to $200 million offering of global depositary receipts. The private placement offer to Hynix follows an agreement signed between the two firms last month for an enhanced strategic alliance.

Hynix Semiconductor will also buy a 2% stake in Taiwan-based chip design house Phison Electronics Corp. Hynix will spend NT$346.5 million ($11 million) for the stake under an alliance deal aimed at technology cooperation and joint product development. Under the agreement, the South Korean chip maker will supply Phison with NAND flash memory chips until the end of 2009 and receive an initial payment of $26.4 million.

Hong Kong

Facing the problems of raw material cost hikes, a set of new labour laws in China, and a poor global economy, Foxconn International Holdings says the company's 2008 gross profit will be under pressure. Due to the high labour cost in southern China, the company plans to move its labour-intensive processing to other provinces such as Hebei and Shanxi, where a new plant is scheduled to operate in July. The company plans to raise its production capacity by 25%-30% in 2009 and given the large potential of the intelligence mobile phone market, the company will spend more on research and development in 2008. Foxconn provides vertically integrated manufacturing services for the handset industry worldwide.

Tencent Holdings has signed a deal to acquire up to 50% in MIH India Global Internet over the next three years, sources say. Tencent will invest about Rmb52.1 million ($7.5 million) in the planned acquisition. Tencent, 35.2%-owned by its controlling shareholder MIH China (BVI), is engaged in boosting its business in its key China market, but also attaches lots of importance to its overseas business, sources say. Tencent's instant message service QQ has approximately 598 million registered users and 254 million active instant messaging accounts. MIH India Global Internet is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Nasper, which is also the controlling shareholder of MIH China.

Huawei has signed a cooperation agreement with Hong Kong telecom operator PCCW to help it build the first CDMA 2000 1X/1xEV-DO Rev mobile network in Hong Kong. In a press release Huawei said the network will substantially reduce costs and facilitate a smooth transition to 3G and newer-technology networks for PCCW.


Mobile internet access in Thailand is expected to experience explosive growth this year, thanks to a greater variety of high-feature handsets and increasing number of GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) and Edge users. It is predicted that the country will see ten-fold growth in terms of data usage volume once third-generation (3G) services are fully available next year. The overall mobile internet market in Thailand witnessed an increase of 50% in terms of usage volume and value in the first quarter this year. AIS alone reported a 70% increase in data revenue to Bt300 million. Internet usage over mobile phones more than doubled, with customers in Bangkok accounting for 40%.

ThailandÆs TT&T Subscriber Services has launched a new broadband-Internet package, offering a minimum speed of 2 megabits per second for Bt590 ($18) a month as it plans to double its subscriber numbers to more than 600,000 this year. The package was expected to help boost company revenues from Bt2 billion ($60million) in 2007 to Bt3 billion this year. The new package covers all provinces and some areas of Bangkok. TT&T Subscriber is a subsidiary of TT&T, which operates fixed-line telephone services upcountry but not in Bangkok. True is the country's largest broadband-Internet provider, with more than 600,000 subscribers. TT&T Subscriber will spend Bt50 million to market its new package.

EVN Telecom will join in building a $200 million pan-Asian submarine optic cable system. The telecommunications arm of Electricity of Vietnam said it will pour $30 million into a cable segment, which will have an initial capacity of 50Gbps and will enable direct connection to Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan. The pan-Asian submarine optic cable system, with a data transmission speed of 3.84Tbps, will also enable direct linkage to TGN-PacificÆs cable system and some spots in the US.

Philippine Long Distance Telephone said its core net profit rose in January to May from a year ago but increasing food and fuel prices as well as a volatile peso - down more than 7% year-to-date - could cut revenues this year. In the first quarter, core net profit rose 11% from a year earlier to Ps9.3 billion ($209.3 million). The company, a unit of Hong Kong-based First Pacific, maintained its 2008 core earnings guidance of Ps37 billion, representing a 5% increase from 2007. But rising fuel and food prices could trim the firm's revenues and core net profit.

Globe Telecom and Apple will be introducing the iPhone 3G in the Philippines later this year. iPhone 3G will be twice as fast as the first generation iPhone, have built-in GPS for expanded location-based mobile services, and iPhone 2.0 software, which includes support for Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync and runs hundreds of third party applications already built with the recently released iPhone SDK.

Reliance Communications, India's second-largest mobile operator, added 1.63 million mobile users in May. Reliance, which is in talks with South African mobile operator MTN for a possible merger that would create a top-10 global telecoms firm, had 47.4 million subscribers as of end-April. India is the world's second-largest wireless market, trailing only China.

StarHub has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Japan's NTT DoCoMo to pilot mobile wallet services in Singapore. Singapore will be the first market outside Japan to test this service, popularly known as Osaifu-Keitai, which was launched by the Japanese carrier in 2004. The service requires contactless chips embedded into mobile devices to facilitate mobile payment and transactions, and includes electronic money, identity card, fare card for bus and train rides, credit card and loyalty card. The application is supported by other mobile service providers in Japan and is accepted by more than 640,000 stores in the country.

¬ Haymarket Media Limited. All rights reserved.
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